Social media pranks calling for mischievous behavior at high schools across the country have escalated, calling for gun violence for tomorrow, Friday, Dec. 17, and prompting school officials and law enforcement to respond.
This afternoon, emails from local school officials were accompanied by separate messages from law enforcement agencies alerting families that they are working together to ensure safety within their respective school communities.
“Tomorrow will be a normal school day. However, we will have an increased police presence in our buildings as an added precaution and source of comfort, not because of a specific concern,” wrote D. Joseph Corr, superintendent of North Colonie School District.
Social media posts have recently challenged school children to perform acts of vandalism at school. Similar challenges have dared them to record themselves or record others as they break and damage school property and share on platforms like TikTok.
The latest challenge has implied violence at schools, including elementary.
“The Town of Bethlehem Police Department has been made aware of social media posts being circulated nationally on TikTok that are attempting to incite violence at schools on Friday, December 17th,” the police agency shared in a statement Thursday afternoon. “Although these threats are not specifically targeting the Bethlehem School District, the Town of Bethlehem Police Department will be working closely with school officials to ensure the safety of the school community.”
Superintendents across the Capital District shared messages stating that their respective schools would add extra security while assuring families there was no “credible threat” to the schools.
“The origin of these posts is unknown, however, this appears to be the latest entry in a troubling trend of “challenges” that have been discussed extensively on TikTok,” stated Jody Monroe, Bethlehem Central superintendent. “Earlier this year, schools across the country saw an increase in incidents of vandalism and, in some cases, violence related to these TikTok challenges that included the ‘Devious Licks’ challenge and the ‘Slap Your Teacher’ challenge.”
Bethlehem police encouraged the public to adhere to the “See Something, Say Something” philosophy. In November, Bethlehem police were alerted by the public of online threats posted by a high school student. The student was later arrested and charged for making a threat to members of the school community.
“We want to be very clear, a specific threat has not been made against any of our RCS schools, staff, or students. This is a generalized threat that has been circulating around the state and country and we just want you to be aware,” stated Ravena Coeymans Selkirk Superintendent Brian Bailey.
Residents in Colonie are encouraged to call Colonie Police at 518-783-2811 for suspicious activity. The Bethlehem Police Department maintains a confidential tip line at 518-439-1503 for use by district students, parents, faculty, staff and families. The phone line is a provided resource for reporting dangerous behavior, including self-harm, or harm to others, threatening statements or online chatter, actions that are out of the ordinary or statements that are out of the ordinary.